CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield will mandate employees—remote or in-person—be vaccinated against COVID-19, the company announced Monday.
Employees have until Nov. 1 to be fully inoculated; medical and religious exemptions are available. The Baltimore-based company had already required vaccinations of employees working in community settings, and is expanding the rule to cover every worker. CareFirst is one of the first health insurers to adopt such a broad policy. Anthem requires employees to be fully vaccinated, but only for in-person work.
CareFirst's policy follows numerous similar requirements from health systems and other employers around the country. New York and California have instituted vaccine requirements for all healthcare workers. The American Hospital Association, America's Essential Hospitals and the Catholic Health Association of the U.S. have endorsed vaccine mandates, as have some healthcare worker unions.
"Employers are in a unique position, no matter the industry, to directly impact the health and wellness of their employees and the populations they serve, particularly, as we continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19," said Brian D. Pieninck, CareFirst president and CEO. "Our ask to fellow employers, organizational leaders, and business partners is to set an example that reflects our shared responsibility to protect our communities' health by getting vaccinated against COVID-19."
About 5,000 CareFirst employees in Maryland, northern Virginia and the District of Columbia are subject to the mandate. CareFirst is also requiring the vaccinations for anyone who visits a corporate office or sponsored event, including guests, business partners and contingent workers.
CareFirst has its biggest market presence in Maryland, followed by Virginia and Washington, D.C. The vast majority of members are enrolled in commercial plans.
The Food and Drug Administration recently moved to allow immunocompromised people to receive a third COVID-19 vaccination, otherwise known as a booster. The CDC also revised mask guidance that vaccinated people should wear a mask in indoor public spaces in COVID-19 hotspots as hospitalizations have again soared, especially in locations with low vaccination rates.